How To Stay Fit as a Truck Driver

04/28/2022 by Christine Morris and Sal Ingrassia

How To Stay Fit as a Truck Driver

Staying physically fit can be tough for anyone who has a job where most of their day is spent sitting. This rings especially true for truck drivers. Being a truck driver has many benefits; flexibility, freedom, travel, seeing new places, decent pay. But it can bring staggering health problems if you don’t take care of yourself. So we paired up with one of our Trinity Team Members, Sal Ingrassia, who has experience as a personal trainer for over seven years, to help you learn how to stay fit as a truck driver.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE STATS ADD UP
BENEFITS TO EXERCISE
TIPS TO ADD EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAY
HOW TO STAY FIT AS A TRUCK DRIVER – BEST EXERCISES FOR YOU

THE STATS ADD UP

Truck drivers travel a lot of miles each day, but those miles are spent sitting behind a steering wheel. This sedentary workstyle with tight deadlines prevents drivers from getting up and moving around whenever they want. While sitting may be comfortable, it can come with a cost. On average, truck drivers have more health problems and shorter life spans than other careers. These statistics shed light on the hazards that this sedentary workstyle can cause to your health;

  • Over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers are twice as likely to develop obesity, which predisposes them to other chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
  • The life expectancy of truck drivers is 16 years less than those working in other professions.
  • A survey of long-haul truck drivers by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2014 found that 69 percent of truck drivers were obese, with 17 percent being morbidly so.
  • According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of the truck drivers had two or more chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and sleep apnea.

Poor health as a truck driver can do more than harming your health; it can also hurt your career.

  • In an even bigger picture, a truck driver’s poor physical health can do more than just harm the truck driver. In another survey by NIOSH, 41 percent of crashes caused by trucks occur due to physical factors that affected the driver, like fatigue or illness. 
  • 87 percent of trucking accidents were due to driver error and 12 percent were due to drivers falling asleep, heart attacks, or other health problems that caused interference.
  • 34 percent of truckers have at least one sign of a severe medical condition that has been linked to poor driving performance.

How do you keep from being another statistic? Well, there are two factors in play that you can focus on – diet and activity. Today, we’ll be focusing on exercise. Adding in regular exercise and movement can help you keep your excellent career and health.

Listen to our Heart of the Truck Podcast episode on Staying Fit Over-The-Road

BENEFITS TO EXERCISE

In a survey by Trucker Tools, 76 percent of truck drivers said they wanted to be more active. They want to start moving for a good reason! The health benefits of physical activity are hard to ignore. Exercise can offer you more than just staying fit as a truck driver.

IMPROVED PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

Want to not only feel better but add years to your life? Exercise.

If you’re looking to prevent common cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease, exercise can help. Being active boosts good cholesterol while decreasing unhealthy cholesterol, keeping your blood flowing, and reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Regular exercise can help prevent or manage many health concerns such as;

  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Many types of cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Falls

It can help improve cognitive function (much needed for OTR drivers) and helps lower your risk of death.

Additionally, research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health, emotional well-being, and lower rates of mental illness. It’s been proven that exercise can reduce the risk of mental illness while also helping manage some like depression and anxiety. For example, Harvard research suggests exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy. 

*Always talk to your doctor about exercise and your mental health. We certainly want to encourage exercise, but don’t encourage quitting any medication without first discussing it with your medical provider.*

BETTER SLEEP

Are you fighting insomnia or restless sleep? Exercise can help with that. Regular activity can help you fall asleep faster and get better and deeper sleep. However, try not to exercise too close to bedtime, or you might struggle to start snoozing due to increased energy.

LESS STRESS, IMPROVED MOOD

Are your tight deadlines increasing your stress levels? Thankfully any form of exercise can help act as a stress reliever. Physical activity, especially any aerobic activity, helps pump up your endorphins or your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. So, the more you move, the happier you’ll be.

Regular exercise also helps reduce the negative effects that come with stress. Exercise imitates the effects of stress, but by offering positive effects through your body, it teaches your brain and body to better manage and protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress.

Physical activity also helps you meditate. Going through the movements of your activity and having to focus on that task, help you forget and shed your tension, thus resulting in a calmer, clearer, and focused mood.

MORE ENERGY

Feeling drained? Exercise can help give you a boost. It delivers oxygen and other nutrients to your tissues, which helps your cardiovascular system work better. As a result, when your heart and lung health improve, it gives you more energy. Plus, you’ll also improve your strength and endurance, giving you more energy in the long run too.  

MANAGE WEIGHT AND FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOUR BODY

Exercise can help you lose weight or maintain your weight. When you’re moving through physical activity, you’re burning calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories burned. Exercise can help you feel stronger and happy with your body for its strength and all the movements it helps you with.

LESS PAIN AND IMPROVED POSTURE

Exercise has been proven to reduce pain and even elevate pain thresholds for most people. But most importantly, exercise helps strengthen functional muscles you may use daily. The stronger those muscles are, the better they can endure and support you in daily functions, thus causing you less pain. This also helps improve your posture, which is important to keep back pain at bay.

IT CAN BE FUN!

If you’re new to regular exercise, it may seem intimidating. Most people first picture someone spending hours in the gym or someone out running miles a day. While that may be enjoyable for some, perhaps that isn’t for you. The best part about exercise is it can be enjoyable by picking a form of physical activity you enjoy doing. Run, walk, hike trails, dance, or jump rope. Find a friend to connect with in-person or encourage each other virtually. Regardless, try anything and everything and find what brings you joy and makes you feel good. That will be the easiest way to stay consistent with it in the long run.

TIPS TO ADD EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAY

With so much time spent on the road, it can be difficult and overwhelming for truck drivers to get exercise. In a CDC report, it was found that more than 25 percent of truck drivers had no exercise in the last 30 years. To help change that and make this task less daunting, here are some tips to help you stay fit as a truck driver.

START SMALL

While long-term goals are great, don’t jump right into exercise thinking you’ll be running marathons within a few days. Starting small not only is better for your body and prevents injury, but it also helps you better build exercise habitually. Make small goals like dedicating 10 minutes a day, a few times a week, to exercise and slowly increase the longevity of your sessions, number of sessions a week, or intensity of your sessions to build strength and endurance.

BREAK IT UP

Finding time to exercise can be the hardest part of getting started. If that’s the case for you, try breaking it up into smaller efforts throughout your day. For example, do lunges, squats, or jumping jacks while fueling up your truck. Or 5 minutes of push-ups on your next visit to the truck stop. Park farther away from the truck stop entrance and get some extra steps in. Exercise is great if you can do it all at once, but any extra movement throughout the day can be just as beneficial to your health and get you closer to reaching your goals.

DO IT FIRST THING

Often after a long day of work, you want to relax and ease into your bedtime routine. Scheduling your exercise first thing in the morning can get it out of the way and offer you several benefits. It can help wake you up, giving you increased energy and boost your basal metabolic rate which can help you burn more calories throughout your workday. 

KEEP EXERCISE EQUIPMENT ON HAND

Driving over the road shouldn’t stop you from exercising. You can do many kinds of exercises with a few basic pieces of equipment to get started. Ideas for what you can bring with you on your travels are:

  • A small set of dumbbells
  • Resistance bands
  • Ankle weights
  • Good pair of sneakers for running/walking
  • Yoga mat for planks, pushups, etc.
  • Smartwatch to track physical activity
  • Mini trampoline
  • Jump rope‍
  • Medicine ball
  • Kettlebell

KEEP IT CONSISTENT

On average, it takes around two months for a new behavior to become an automatic habit. While that seems like a rather long time to build a new habit of exercising regularly, it doesn’t need to be perfect and every day to happen. Set a goal with a set amount of time you want to exercise each week or how many times you want to exercise within a week and try keeping to that small goal for the first two months. Even if you miss your goal one week, researchers found if you aim to stay consistent, it’s okay to mess up now and then. But set that goal for regular exercise, aim for it, and in two months’ time, not only will you be feeling better, but exercise will also feel automatic and easy to do. And at the end of the day, to start a new habit, all you’ve got to do is start with Day 1. 

LOG IT

Need another way to keep on top of your new exercise goals? Log it. By keeping a daily journal of your movement, you’ll be able to feel accomplished the weeks you hit your goal and spot any patterns that cause you to skip a workout. Looking for an even easier way to keep that information logged? Invest in a smartwatch, like a Fitbit, to keep track of your goals and activity levels for you.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT’S AROUND

Are there trails you can walk or run close to one of the truck stops you consider for parking? Or often, parks have a designated fitness area in addition to their trails. What about parking at a gym? Find one with a nationwide presence so you can go to any location, and even better, they have showers you can use after your workout. Some truck stops, like TA or Pilot, offer health and wellness programs, including walking trails and gyms to help you stay healthy over the road.

MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME

You might imagine exercise routines needing to be an hour or longer, but that’s not true. While they can be if that’s what you enjoy, there are many ways to maximize your time and keep your workouts short. Keeping your workouts vigorous and maintaining a 75 to 85 percent max heart rate will maximize your time and fat burning. High-intensity workouts are great for this. You can also look at compound exercises to work out multiple muscle groups at a time. Some examples of easy compound exercises are squats, lunges, and pushups.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

While these tips are all great advice, they don’t work for everyone. The most important part of building a new habit, like regular exercise, is finding what works best for you. Find the physical activity you enjoy and implement it into your schedule, however that may be.

HOW TO STAY FIT AS A TRUCK DRIVER – BEST EXERCISES FOR YOU

So now you know how to start, but what kind of exercises should you be doing? For this section, I reached out to my coworker Sal Ingrassia. He’s currently a Business Development Representative at Trinity, and has seven years of experience as a personal fitness trainer, in addition to previously managing gyms and fitness centers. Here are some exercises he recommended for you to stay fit as a truck driver. He even included photos to show proper form.

5 BEST BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES FOR TRUCK DRIVERS

Benefits: No equipment necessary. Improves posture and can help you stay focused with a burst of energy.

1. Squats 

how to stay fit as a truck driver

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your torso slightly forward so that your head is over your toes. Squat down as far as possible without losing this posture and then return to the starting position with legs straight. A squat should be led by moving the hips back rather than moving the knees forward. It can help to straighten your arms out in front of your shoulders for balance.

Make sure to have a comfortable range of motion. If needing assistance or modification, use a seat to stop the momentum.

2. Push-Ups

how to stay fit as a truck driver

Get on the floor or ground on all fours, positioning your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep your elbows slightly bent and extend your legs back, so you are balanced on your hands and toes, keeping your feet hip-width apart. Lower yourself slowly to the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and then return to starting position for one rep. 

Make use of a yoga mat and perform on the ground. If needing assistance or modification, use your truck step as an incline to assist.

3. Walking Laps around a Truck Stop

4. Lunges

how to stay fit as a truck driver

Start by standing with feet together and then take one step forward, about two lengths of your average step length. Once your front foot is set, keeping your chest up and torso straight, bend both knees in a squatting motion until you approach the ground. Without putting your back knee on the ground, push off your front foot, bringing you back to the starting position. Repeat this motion in the correct direction for reverse lunges and side lunges. 

Many variations to this one. Can move forwards, backward, or side to side. All work different muscles.

5. Jumping Jacks


Stand upright with your legs together and arms at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and jump into the air. As you jump, spread your legs to be about shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms out and over your head. Jump back to starting position. Repeat this continuously for the correct duration of time. Jumping Jacks are good for cardio and are a great exercise to mix in with others. If needing assistance or modification, simply don’t jump, step out instead.

3 BEST WEIGHTED EXERCISES FOR TRUCK DRIVERS

Benefits: Build strength and flexibility, reduce muscle aches while remaining in a seated position for long periods of time, releases endorphins to improve mood, and reduce stress.

Equipment Needed: Medicine Ball, Two Dumbbells, Kettle Bell

All equipment weight is determined by your fitness level. You can increase or decrease as needed based on your current fitness level.

1. Twists

Perform 5 Sets for 1 Minute each

how to stay fit as a truck driver


Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Your arms need to be fully extended in front of your body, holding the medicine ball or dumbbell in front of you. In a controlled motion, rotate your upper body as far as possible to each side without rotating your lower half. You should be feeling a tight crunch in your abdomen on the side you are rotating to. If you don’t feel that crunch/tightness, then you’re not keeping your lower half stationary.

2. Dumbbell Press or Pull


Perform 5 Sets for 30 Seconds each

how to stay fit as a truck driver

PRESS – Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, holding each dumbbell in hand at ear level. Keep your elbows tucked in toward your sides, underneath of wrists. Press both hands up to the sky at an equal pace until your arms are fully extended or until your max flexibility is reached. Control the dumbbells as you bring them back down to your ears and press again.

how to stay fit as a truck driver

PULL – Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with your knees bent slightly. Keep your upper body leaned forward to about a 45-degree angle so that your eyes are over your toes. With the dumbbells hanging over your toes, pull your hands upwards, towards your belly button, until the dumbbells reach waist height. Pause and contract the muscles in your back before controllably lowering the dumbbells back down to straight arms, and then repeat.

3. Kettle Bell Swings

Perform 5 Sets for 1 Minute each

how to stay fit as a truck driver

Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your knees bent and torso leaning forward at a 45-degrees, holding the top of the kettlebell with both hands between your knees. In one swinging motion, straighten your legs and torso, while at the same time extending the arms in front of your body up to chest height. After extending, bend your knees and lean your torso forward back to starting position, while lowering the arms back down between the knees. Repeat in rhythm for the full set.

STAY FIT AS A TRUCK DRIVER, IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR WORK PERFORMANCE

Even if you aren’t a truck driver, starting to build a habit of exercise is a good one for a healthy lifestyle. But if you are a truck driver, it can make you a better one. How to stay fit as a truck driver may seem difficult, but the most important thing is to start moving, no matter how small it may seem. The benefits of exercise compared to the statistics of a truck driver’s health are hard to ignore. So, what are you waiting for, get moving!

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